This book is based on a series of radio shorts from 2005 called Talkin' About Talk produced at the College of Charleston. The College has made the rec...moreThis book is based on a series of radio shorts from 2005 called Talkin' About Talk produced at the College of Charleston. The College has made the recordings available on their website and through iTunesU.
The book (and radio program) are exactly what it says it is: quick introductory essays on a range of topics in the broad field of linguistics that are good starting points for interested laypeople.
The only minor criticism I have is that it can be a bit rah-rah, overly positive about the quality, effectiveness, and success of our language teaching methodologies and educational institutions. Considering the radio programs were part of a marketing/outreach effort for an event (the CAL "2005 Year of Languages" campaign) sponsored by those institutions, that's not much of a surprise.(less)
I'm familiar with Walter Block from Mises Institute-sponsored lectures on their YouTube channel. I like him and agree with many of his arguments, whic...moreI'm familiar with Walter Block from Mises Institute-sponsored lectures on their YouTube channel. I like him and agree with many of his arguments, which makes negatively reviewing this book something of an unpleasant chore.
For starters, the tone of this book reinforces every libertarian stereotype out there: brash, pedantically argumentative, overly-theoretical, and absolutist. Personally, I like these traits in people, but they are wholly counter-productive in the kind of "apology" literature that this book purports to be. Even when you agree with Block, he makes you want to argue the minutiae with him.
Second, he conflates a pragmatic legal argument with a moral argument. There is no need to define pimps, drug pushers, etc. as "heroes" to defend the legality of these actions and in fact attempting this alienates folks who agree on pragmatic grounds.
If Block insists on making the pedantic, semantically-narrow "moral hero" case, he should have done it at the end of the book in a dedicated chapter after he had done his best with the pragmatic approach. Ideally, he would have done so in an entirely separate book.
Third, he is overly reliant on deductive, a priori reasoning, occasionally making unsubstantiated assertions that he could easily back up with facts and figures but doesn't bother.
Fourth, some of his arguments are just plain idiotic. I offer up the chapter defending litterbugs as exemplary. Block makes compelling arguments too, but his strongest ones can be found in other books that are not as incendiary and are therefore more likely to convince, like Economics in One Lesson.
Finally, the tone and word choice in some cases sounds vaguely racist to modern ears, despite the fact that he's trying to make pro-minority arguments at the time. I'm willing to chalk this up to the fact that the book was originally written in 1976.
Regrettably, I can only recommend this book to Block's ideological cohorts because he fails to frame his argument in a way that will actually convince people who are not already likely to agree.(less)
I did this series twice--once last summer right before a trip to Italy and just now for review in preparation for more serious study. My snobbery make...moreI did this series twice--once last summer right before a trip to Italy and just now for review in preparation for more serious study. My snobbery makes me want to look down on this course as too simple and slow, but I have to confess it is effective. Each lesson is 30 minutes for a total of 15 hours. You can listen to one per day and rarely does a lesson need to be repeated because repetition is already built into the content. I do it while getting ready in the morning.
Frankly, the phrases that it teaches are largely geared toward getting American businessmen laid. I suppose that could be a plus or a minus depending on your needs... I'll be continuing on to series II and III while working through a grammar book at the same time.(less)
The sequel to God, No! (which I also consumed as an audiobook), this recounts more of Penn's stories. Many I had heard him tell elsewhere already, but...moreThe sequel to God, No! (which I also consumed as an audiobook), this recounts more of Penn's stories. Many I had heard him tell elsewhere already, but he's such a great storyteller that they don't suffer from retelling. Still, my favorite parts were the ones I hadn't heard--not because they were the best ones, but simply new to me.(less)
Most of these stories I first heard told in my college anthropology courses. They constitute a big chunk of the mythos of the discipline. Visit your local natural history museum while reading to see casts of many of the fossils mentioned herein.(less)
The broader scope of this book from his previous is both a strength and weakness. His use of evolutionary psychology works as far as I can tell, but a...moreThe broader scope of this book from his previous is both a strength and weakness. His use of evolutionary psychology works as far as I can tell, but also strikes me as not very scientific in the Popperian sense which is somewhat ironic considering his argument. But, his main thesis--that rational supporting evidence for a belief tends to be accepted after a belief is adopted--I think is valid.(less)
Being mainly fan of his polemics against religion, it was with mild disinterest that I listened to this audiobook. I very much admire the languid eleg...moreBeing mainly fan of his polemics against religion, it was with mild disinterest that I listened to this audiobook. I very much admire the languid elegance of his prose and in this he does not disappoint. The best bits are the sections on his early life, his friendships with Amis, Fenton, & Rushdie, becoming a US citizen, and discovering his Jewish roots. The chunks about his socialism and politics were a bore, with the occasional gem tossed in--his part in a riotous college rally and the death in Iraq of a serviceman convinced to go by Hitchens' writings come to mind.
My favorite excerpt actually comes from the interview appended to the end of the audiobook version:
The study of literature is a much better moral pursuit--a much better way of confronting ethical questions and moral dilemmas--than is the study of holy writ. If you, for example, spend time reading and thinking about Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment or George Eliot's Middlemarch there is a great deal more matter in there for thought and reflection on how the good life could or should be lived and what is evil and (if there is such a thing) how it is to be handled than there is in any of the testaments or parables.
Since my friend Curtis read this first and posted a gargantuan review here, my thoughts below will be a response to him as much as Dawkins directly. I...moreSince my friend Curtis read this first and posted a gargantuan review here, my thoughts below will be a response to him as much as Dawkins directly. I commend his review to you.
I'd agree with Curt that his tone is annoying and he occasionally overstates his case, but I generally agree will most of his reasoning. Where I think Curt's criticism is unfair when he faults Dawkins for not addressing in detail what are essentially deist positions. That is simply not Dawkins target.
Regarding the audiobook, I disliked the second narrator for quotes, etc. It was a distraction.(less)
When Sagan is waxing philosophical this book is transcendent, most notably in the first half dozen chapters where he most directly addresses man's pla...moreWhen Sagan is waxing philosophical this book is transcendent, most notably in the first half dozen chapters where he most directly addresses man's place in the universe as a philosophical rather than practical problem.
If you can, track down the audiobook. Sagan did the abridged version himself and it is a beautiful reading. The unabridged version inserts the missing audio with another reader who, while competent, is no match for Sagan.(less)
A decent introductory survey course on the Enlightenment. It did make me realize how heavily skewed my knowledge of this period is to the English. (An...moreA decent introductory survey course on the Enlightenment. It did make me realize how heavily skewed my knowledge of this period is to the English. (Anyone who's met me knows my sympathies for the classical liberalism born out of these English Enlightenment philosophers.)
I need to read more French literature--Diderot in particular. It's on the to-do list...(less)